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Money for GINA, NCN, Presidential Guard, other entities not approved

SAWING: An opposition protester outside Parliament Building with a saw demonstrating in favour of the budget disapproval.

The combined opposition in the National Assembly on Tuesday voted not to approve subsidies and contributions to the National Communications Network (NCN) , Government Information Agency (GINA), Presidential Guard and other agencies that fall under the Office of the President.

Other agencies, whose allocations that have not been approved because they are under the same heading of Administrative Services, are Castellani House, Guyana Energy Agency , Guyana Office for Investment, Institute of Applied Science and Technology, Integrity Commission, Office of the Commissioner of Information and the Office of the First Lady.

Government budgeted GUY$139.801 million to GINA and GUY$81.761 million to NCN for recurrent expenditiures including salaries. The opposoition also voted against capital expenditures for NCN- GUY$60.5 million and GUY$8 million for GINA.

Alliance For Change’s (AFC) Moses Nagamootoo later queried why government had decided to lump other agencies have been lumped together with those that were not contentious. Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill replied saying that the budget has been prepared in the same manner as was previously done and there was no hidden motive in doing so.

A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Shadow Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge first signalled that the entire line-item would not have received the opposition’s support on grounds that the executive had no constitutional or other legal authority to spend monies that had not been approved by the National Assembly. “Given the unconstitutional action by the government, we are not going to approve this item at all,” even if it meant other agencies were going to be affected, he said.  Following an explanation by Attorney General, Anil Nandlall that the decision by the executive to spend monies from the government’s coffers was made after he had submitted an opinion in light of the Chief Justice, Ian Chang’s ruling.

Nandlall explained that Cabinet had requested him to prepare an opinion to ascertain whether the cuts could have been restored under Article 218 (3) of the Constitution where there has been insufficient or no budgetary allocation. He said there were two options- The Minister of Finance can seek a supplementary provision seeking permission to use money from the Consolidated Fund or use money from that Fund and submit to the National Assembly a statement of excesses detailing how those monies have been spent. The Attorney General recalled that a statement of excess has been presented in relation to where they had been cut.

Greenidge insisted that it was only the House that could approve spending and so it still needed to be explained. He added that spending on salaries nine months after they were due could not be considered urgent.

Prior to the 32-33 in favour of the opposition, Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill had been grilled about how GINA and NCN had planned to spend the monies for recurrent expenditure – salaries and other emoluments and fuel and lubricants.

The AFC’s Cathy Hughes wanted to know whether GINA earns a 15 percent commission for advertisements placed in other media. Edghill promised to provide the information to the House later Tuesday.